When it comes to separation anxiety in dogs, it can cause a great deal of stress for both the owner and the dog. This article explains a technique used to prevent separation anxiety forming or helping revert the early stages of anxiety.
What is separation anxiety?
Separation anxiety is a serious condition, it is an area in training that is usually forgotten until a problem has been created. Not only is this stressful for the dog and the owner but it can cause friction with neighbours and family members.
Some typical anxious behaviours are pacing, whining, barking, howling or shaking while you’re gone or as you prepare to leave. Anxious dogs can also be destructive, such as chewing or digging as well as having accidents in the house.
Once a dog develops anxiety it can be much harder to correct the behaviour, so let’s try to prevent it.
Choose if you are crate training your puppy
Although to many a crate may initially seem mean, but in reality they come with lots of benefits to your dog. They can help to settle dogs into new environments it actually gives your dog a safe place to go when tired, stressed or nervous.
Dogs naturally try to avoid making a mess where they sleep so they can be a handy tool to aid with toilet training.
A crate must be large enough for your dog to stand up in, turn around and lie down in so bare this in mind when purchasing a crate, you should allow some room for growth.
Preparing to leave
As you prepare to leave home, you don’t want to make an excessive fuss about leaving over the top goodbyes can be confusing to a puppy, instead, you can leave some toys or mentally stimulating games such as a stuffed KONG, these treats can keep your dog busy for a while and also take the attention off of your departure.
Whether using a crate or not, this technique can be applied in every household.
When you leave the home and return its a normal reaction to greet your puppy as they greet you, with cuddles and a bucket load of excitement. This is a big mistake to make, as your dog is interpreting your behaviour much differently than you intend, high pitch voices and excessive attention can make your dog associate you being gone as something that was stressful, you have left and missed you dog so desperately that you are frantic to be reunited with him, so in turn, being apart is a bad thing.
The art of silence
When you return home, every household member must choose to ignore the puppy until the excitement of your return has subsided. Although it’s extremely hard to ignore the ball of cuteness demanding your attention, you are sending a clear message – I am home, I know you are here, my return is not a relief and I have not been worried about being apart from you, therefore, you do not need to worry.
Ignore barking and wining and softly push your dog down with a single ‘down’ command if they jump up and repeat if necessary, this should be the only communication you give for now.
Remember by doing this, you are doing it both for you and your dog, a dog that is comfortable with being along is a dog that’s going to be happier and much more relaxed when you need to go out.
Once your puppy has given up and turned their attention to something else, you can calmly give your pup some attention and a treat, they no longer associate the fuss with your return.
What’s brilliant about this method is that it also teaches your puppy they cannot jump or demand attention from people, it teaches good manners and a calmer approach to containing all of that excitement!
When you start this method, start from scratch to help ease any existing anxiety. You want to start leaving you dog (preferably in a crate) for around 5 minutes, come in, ignore and do the same again. You can do this over a couple of days or even weeks but remain consistent, gradually building that time up by around 5/10 minutes a go, this teaches them you always come home and when you do, there was nothing to be worried about, a calm you is a calm dog.
The same can be applied to crate training, when you open the door to let your dog out, they should be silent, remember, crying doesn’t mean they get their own way. You can offer a small reward and turn you back and calmly walk away, not offering any attention to the puppy until they have calmed down.
This method, if done consistently can be very effective, enforces the idea that coming and going isn’t a bad experience.